9/30/2009—Monday was my first experience at Jewish services as a non-Jew secularist. I went anyway, and fasted, because Yom Kippur has always been a crucial event to me, a day of genuine spiritual experiences. I was not sure what would happen.
I was warmly welcomed at the synagogue to which I had belonged for many years. These have been friends and witnesses in my life. My gradual estrangement from Judaism was assumed, and regretted, from what I could tell. But, still, I felt at home with the community.
I even felt the pull of the familiar at Kol Nidre. What a beautiful service. And the next morning, before going to services, how fresh and alive everything seemed.
Nevertheless, I now see there is no such thing as a secular Yom Kippur. Without the commitment to the myth as a member of the community, the renewal that the High Holy Days promise is not possible. And the concepts of repentance and forgiveness now must be reformulated. I don’t yet see how that is to be done.
One thing is certain. Something in secularism must allow for radical transformation. At the moment, transformation itself is rejected as a religious category. The day to day is revered, as if to yearn for something more is to betray secularism.
I am left asking, what is the point of secular life?